What are my options when ISDN ends?

With the end of ISDN services in sight, you may be worried that you have to junk your Digital PBX – and all the extension phones that go with it – and buy a whole new VoIP telephone system.  While there may be good reasons for doing so, that’s not your only option …

Our partner – Yeastar – have produced a range of ISDN gateways designed to interface basic and primary rate ISDN services into their S-Series IP-PBX appliances. This usually allows us to connect ISDN lines along-side VoIP SIP Trunk services (e.g. where the broadband is not reliable). However, the reverse is also true … These gateways can ‘flipped over’ so that the ISDN port[s] on the Digital PBX can be connected to the gateway, and then the gateway can be connected to Cloud-based SIP Trunk services through Broadband, provided by an Internet Telephony Service Provider (ITSP).

We have four Gateways available:

For larger companies, the TE100 will interface a single ‘Primary rate’ ISDN30e [E1] service allowing provision of up to 30 channels to carry external calls to and from the PBX. The TE200 terminates two E1 services from the PBX, allowing up to 60 channels for external calls.

For smaller businesses, a TB200 gateway will interface two ‘Basic rate’ ISDN2e [BRI] services allowing provision of up to four channels to carry calls, while its big-brother, the TB400 will interface four ISDN2e services, allowing connection of up to eight active SIP Trunk line channels.

What are the advantages?:

First of all, this requires no changes to your existing Digital PBX or the extension phones supported by it. The gateways aren’t cheap, but don’t incur monthly rental, and are nowhere near the combined costs of a new system, new handsets and associated user training.

Literally hundreds of SIP Trunk channels can be delivered through a low-cost FTTC/VDSL broadband service, or on a small portion of your existing leased line DSL. It’s therefore possible to reduce the number of lines and overall costs for voice and data connections to the outside world.

The costs associated with rental of SIP Trunk services are orders of magnitude lower than for ISDN. Your existing DDI number range can be ported to an ITSP’s SIP Trunk service (the process includes the ‘cease’ of the ISDN lines), and after that your monthly costs are only for SIP Trunk channels and outbound call minutes. There are no additional charges for caller ID and DDI numbers – but these are active, included and provided as standard SIP services. A typical SIP Trunk channel rental is just £3 per month – while a typical monthly rental for an ISDN channel, is £15 (plus CLI and DDI services). Connection charges for SIP Trunk channels are £zero! – in comparison, ISDN2e connection charges are around £250This means that ROI time for the gateway purchase is quite short when compared to your monthly ISDN service charges!

With some modern digital PBX systems, it is possible to terminate Internet and SIP Trunk services directly at the PBX itself … However, when doing so, be aware that some system manufacturers (e.g. Avaya), require you to purchase licenses to interface and support calls on SIP Trunk channels. Installation of a Yeastar gateway makes no change to the ISDN line termination on the Digital PBX and therefore you have no redundant line interface cards, no inbound and outbound route re-configuration, and no SIP license fees to pay.

Get in touch with us at Foxhall Solutions, to talk about how you would like to move on from ISDN, and reduce your operation costs … 01787 228402

Nice Feature – Yeastar S-Series modules

The Yeastar S-Series VoIP PBX range includes four  appliances capable of providing a wide range of features when connected to SIP Trunk services through broadband Internet.

Each of the Yeastar S-Series Appliances can terminate between 20 and 100 SIP Trunk service providers with no change to system hardware or software. However, these Appliances are also able to take Yeastar’s range of plug-in modules so that you can use legacy line types in conjunction with (or even instead of), SIP Trunks. This might be useful when you have unreliable broadband and want a back-up service in case of broadband failure. Or you may need a new phone system, but the broadband in your area is just not good enough for VoIP [yet!].  It’s also useful if you have numbers on analogue or ISDN lines that can’t be ported to VoIP. These modules make it easy to create a ‘hybrid’ PBX to make communications flexible and ultra-reliable.

Each of the S-Series Appliances use the same on-board modules:

S2 Module: two FXS ‘extension’ ports allowing connection of one or two analogue telephone devices such as; desk phones, DECT cordless phones, fax’ machines and credit-card terminals – to other system extensions and trunk line services.

O2 Module: two FXO ‘central office’ ports terminating one or two analogue telephone trunk lines from the local PSTN Exchange (e.g. BT).

SO Module: one FXS ‘extension’, and one FXO ‘central office’ port to connect an analogue telephone device, and an analogue line.

B2 Module: two basic rate ISDN2e ports to support connections to one or two NTE boxes, providing two or four ISDN channels (2 or 4 trunk lines), with support of Caller ID and Direct Dial Number services.

GSM Module: one SIM card can be slotted into this module and an antenna fitted to the Yeastar IP-PBX to support calls to and from the GSM mobile phone network. Call routing plans can be configured in the management of the PBX to use this module as the primary connection route when calls are placed to mobile numbers (to take advantage of provider’s call plans), and to use it as a fall-back trunk in case of broadband failure.

3G Module: as for the GSM module, but for the 3G mobile phone network.

4G LTE Module: this module will support 3G/4G mobile calls and data. It will support end-to-end VoIP from a mobile device (e.g. a smart-phone running Linkus VoIP app’), through mobile data network to VoIP extension phones on the company LAN.

EX30 Expansion Board: can be installed in the S100 or S300 Appliances – to provide an RJ45 interface to a 30 channel Primary Rate ISDN30e, with support of Caller ID and Direct Dial Numbers.

EX08 Expansion Board: is installed into S100 or S300 Appliances to mount up to four on-board modules on each EX08.

D30 Module: When a D30 module is added to a Yeastar S100 PBX, its max. capacity is raised from 100 extensions to 200 extensions, and the number of concurrent calls raised from 30 to 60. When a D30 is added to an S300 PBX, its capacity is raised from 300 extensions to 400 extensions, and the number of concurrent calls raised from 60 to 90. A second D30 may also be added to the Yeastar S300 to push this up to 500 extensions and 120 concurrent calls.

This modular approach across Yeastar’s S-Series IP-PBX range allows you to be confident that any type of connection can be set up to enable you to take advantage of current and future services available in your area, expansion of your business, and competitive call-plan tariffs available to your business.

Contact Foxhall Solutions – 01787 228402 – to talk about your next phone system …

Nice Feature – Yeastar Multisite Interconnect

Most VoIP systems can be connected through Internet using SIP trunks, to allow ‘internal’ calling which by-passes the public network, and therefore won’t incur call costs. This feature makes it possible for a business to ‘multi-site network’ its Head Office phone system, with its local, National & International Branch offices, to create one large system with a sensible dial-plan, and free calls between all company extensions.

Setting up this kind of Corporate phone network, can be complicated and difficult to maintain. This is due to the number of ‘end-points’ needed to connect the sites – and legacy dial-plans may also cause conflicts. If – for example – you have five offices to connect, then each of the five offices will need four SIP Trunk groups set up on its phone system (connecting it to the other four sites). That means we would need to set up 5×4=20 SIP Trunk end-points. Each site also needs a unique 3 or 4-digit extension plan and in a lot of cases, requires an outbound call rule with a different prefix ‘steering’ digit for each link, that tells the phone system which route the call must use to get to the correct office. Sometimes the complexity of such a network gets in the way of setting it up and taking advantage of a major VoIP benefit.

Yeastar’s S-Series IP-PBX systems now incorporate a feature called ‘Multisite Interconnect’ [MI].

Multisite Interconnect

MI is a clever system designed to create links between Yeastar S-Series IP-PBX systems, with the minimum amount of set-up and on-going support needed. It allows you to designate one ‘Head Office’ [Headquarter] system, and multiple ‘Branches’. Only one link is required between a branch and the headquarter system to connect it to all other offices. That means for 5 offices, only 5 network end-points need to be configured! A small amount of initial planning is required to choose a 3 or 4-digit dial-plan with a unique first digit for each site, but after that, it’s easy.

For our five-site example above, we could choose a 4-digit dial-plan across all sites, with e.g.  ‘London’ extensions being 2xxx, ‘Chelmsford’ being 3xxx, ‘Colchester’ 4xxx, ‘Ipswich’ 5xxx, and ‘Manchester’ 6xxx. (Routing could also be done using the first and second digit e.g. 22xx, 23xx, 24xx etc.). On our London Yeastar, we edit the ‘Headquarter’ profile and create the four ‘Branch’ profiles which generate unique ID numbers and passwords for each site connection. Each profile’s extension format shows the leading digit for the extension numbers at those sites.  On the Yeastar systems at each Branch office, we simply edit the ‘Headquarter’ setting to include the public IP address of the head-office site and use the generated Branch ID and password for that office, to complete the connection. In other words, the Headquarter system is acting as a system hub …

Extension 5112 at the Ipswich office can then call a colleague at London extension 2778, by just dialling 2778 – with no call charges.

Unique & innovative

The MI solution is unique to the Yeastar S-Series product, and can be applied to all models across the range. Small offices running 5 to 10 extensions on the S20 platform can be included in networks that include S300 PBX’s supporting up to 500 users.

In addition to keeping in touch with staff at other offices, these links can also be used to forward ‘over-flow’ calls on to the same departments in other offices (e.g. Sales). Callers will be answered rather than falling to voice-mail when an office is busy …

There are no additional routing rules that need to be created to make this work, and a green-tick status icon appears on the Management page to show the link has established OK. IP exclusion rules set up on each Branch profile – and general access rules set in the Yeastar’s ‘Firewall Rules’ module – ensure that the network connections are secure. The security and simplicity of MI ensures that it will be quick & easy to put in place, reliable, and easy to maintain.

Contact Foxhall Solutions 01787 228402 – to talk about ‘MI’ telephone networks …

Nice Feature! – Yeastar IP-PBX ‘AutoCLIP Routes’

AutoCLIP Routes is far from a glamorous feature name, but it’s something that could be really useful for your business.

You may have missed a call to your desk, but seen the ‘Caller ID’ number in the call history on your shiny new VoIP feature phone. You select the number and call it back, and you are connected to reception staff in a large company. Nobody there seems to know who called you? That’s frustrating! … From the other side, you may have had to advise your colleagues [and reception staff] that you are expecting a call back from customer ‘X’, and to put the caller through to you please …

Fortunately, we can now provide a way round those scenarios for our customers …

AutoCLIP Routes

AutoCLIP Routes‘ is a feature of our Yeastar S-Series IP-PBX.  A table of your outgoing calls is stored in your phone system, including extension details, and the numbers dialled. This routing table is then used to compare the Caller Identity of calls coming back into your business phone system, with the numbers dialled out. When an incoming Caller ID is matched with a number that you dialled, the IP-PBX will route the inbound call directly back to your extension – bypassing any reception or ring groups.

This is ideal for a missed call scenario, because it by-passes all the “who was it that called you?” questions and ring-around investigation, and connects that returned call directly to the relevant extension. A simple idea, but one that will help your business be more efficient, and professional.

DDI Numbers

As with most things in telecommunications, there is more than one way to solve a problem. We can also assign unique ‘Direct Dial Inwards‘ [DDI] numbers to some or all extensions in your phone system. While these can be used to route inbound calls directly to users and groups, these DDI numbers can also be configured to show as the outbound Caller ID [CLI] for all calls from your extensions.  This means that the number showing in the missed call history on your customer’s phone, is yours, and will dial you directly when selected.

Contact Foxhall Solutions 01787 228402 – to talk about your next phone system …

GDPR: How will it effect Call Recording?

In May 2018 (and 10 months before Brexit!), the EU-wide ‘General Data Protection Regulations’ (GDPR) will come into effect. While most of us are thinking about protecting data storage on computer servers – some businesses will also have to consider their telephone systems. If you are recording telephone calls, then GDPR legislation will be relevant to your Business!

Currently, call recording in the UK falls under legislation outlined in the ‘Data Protection Act 1998’ (DPA). That’s due to the likelihood of call recording to capture personal information such as names, addresses, bank & financial details, health & family info, religious beliefs etc. DPA expects businesses to inform all parties in a call that they are being recorded, and also to tell them what the recording will be used for. Other legislation (RIPA 2000 and HRA 1998), strengthens the need for notification and consent – but in practice, consent is assumed, as long as callers are informed and given the choice to opt-out. DPA also prescribes rules for the storage and handling of the recorded data.

Under GDPR, the key principles are an expectation to protect privacy, a need to notify all parties that they are being recorded & to gain their consent, and a requirement to adequately protect stored data from misuse.

The main difference with the GDPR over DPA, will be that it strengthens the rights of the individual over the rights of the business. Organisations wanting to record calls will be required to ‘actively justify legality’ by demonstrating that the recordings meet any of the following six “processing conditions”:

  1. All parties in the call have given consent to be recorded.
  2. Recording is necessary to fulfil a contract.
  3. Recording is necessary to fulfil a legal requirement.
  4. Recording is necessary to protect the interests of one or more of the call participants.
  5. Recording is in the public interest, or necessary for the exercise of official authority.
  6. Recording is in the legitimate interests of the recorder, unless those interests are overridden by the interests of the participants in the call.

Some of these conditions will apply to specific industry sectors … For example, number 3 will apply to businesses in the Financial Services sector, who are required by the FCA to record all calls leading up to transactions. Number 5 would apply to Emergency and Security services in the interests of public protection and accountability.

For general Contact Centre recording – for monitoring service levels, or staff training, the options will be 1 or 6 – and as the ‘legitimate interests’ of a business to evaluate customer service can’t usually be put above the interests of personal privacy under GDPA – then that means that for most call recording scenarios, ‘consent’ must be given by all parties in the call for recording to take place.

Unlike current DPA legislation, ‘assumed consent’ will not be enough. With the GDPR giving prominence to the rights of individuals to restrict collection of, and to know what happens to their recorded data, ‘explicit consent’ to record calls will be required. Note too, that this applies to your own staff, not just those who call or are called by them. It is also significant that recording of any ‘private’ calls made by your staff on your business phone system, can be in breach of both DPA and GDPR due to the information recorded not being used for its specified purpose and/or it not being justified by one of the ‘processing conditions’.

The GDPR will put an obligation on organisations to formally demonstrate compliance (like a ‘Health & Safety’ policy). Data Protection policies will become a statutory compliance document rather than a recommended option. Businesses wanting to record calls will have to create a call recording policy, outlining (broadly & not restricted to);

  • which of the six processing conditions they believe apply and why,
  • detailing the process[es] to obtain consent from all parties in a call,
  • detail of method[s] used to stop/prevent calls being recorded
  • and, what measures are in place to protect the recordings from misuse.

Unfortunately, this bureaucracy can’t be ignored. Fines of up to 4% of turnover can be levied for major breaches (e.g. non-disclosure of recording, or failure to adequately protect data), and penalties of 2% for less serious offences.

Carrying out a thorough audit of your call recording methods, notifications and storage is the first step to take. Do this keeping in mind the wider implications of Data Protection and impact of breeches in security – and use the time until May 2018 to draw up your policies and protocols to ensure compliance. That way you’ll be able to assure your staff and customers that you are keeping their interests at heart, and just as important – you’ll avoid those fines!

Contact Foxhall Solutions – 01787 228402 – to talk about call recording on your phone system …

What happens to my VoIP if Broadband fails?

 

While we expect our phone line to work close to 100% of the time, most of us have experienced broadband outages cutting us off from the Internet. So, if we are using broadband to carry our phone calls, what happens if our broadband fails?

This is a question we get asked all the time. As Internet services improve, and we move toward a general acceptance of VoIP, reliability is so much better than it used to be, but it’s a concern that still needs to be addressed.

Analogue and ISDN lines can have their problems! If you have a line fail, then you’ll probably hear that “we haven’t been getting calls this morning”. You’ll then test-call your number from your mobile and confirm that the call doesn’t get to your office. Although it’s a good idea to have the help-desk number for your telecom’s service provider in your mobile phone – not many of us do! [So – go on, do it now!] We then spend a lot of time tracking down that contact information to register a fault. The telecom’s provider then schedules an Engineering visit. How soon, depends on the level of ‘care’ you pay for with your line subscription – and if requested, the provider will set up a divert on your main number off to a mobile or alternate land-line. After your problem is fixed, you may get a test call to let you know all’s well, and then you’ll need to call the help-desk again and ask them to remove the divert on your number. A drawn-out process needing a lot of time and effort from you …

Strong Foundations

How a broadband fault impacts on your VoIP phone system depends entirely on the choices you make when purchasing your new system. This is where some carriers and some VoIP systems are better than others. There are several things that can be done when you purchase and set-up your new phone system that will ensure that a broadband fault has minimal effect;

  • Choose your Broadband supplier wisely. If your phone system is business critical, then don’t choose a home-grade ISP! Not all broadband is created equal, and business grade broadband services cost more for a reason! This choice alone will dramatically improve service up-time and ensure that your speed and bandwidth to/from Internet will remain constant 24×7.
  • Wherever possible, make sure that the line and the broadband service on it, are being billed and supported by the same carrier. This prevents issues where the line provider plays ‘support ping-pong’ with the broadband provider when you are trying to get a fault resolved.
  • Broadband services are provided on analogue lines (i). Make sure that the line is on a ‘business’ rather than ‘residential’ rental package, so that if there are faults, they are escalated and dealt with quickly.
  • Broadband services are provided on analogue lines (ii). That means we have at least one analogue line available to our VoIP system to connect through an IP-PBX Gateway or module, so that these can be used as alternate trunk line[s] in the case of SIP Trunk channel failure due to broadband loss. This ‘fail-over’ to the analogue line happens automatically and will stay in place until the broadband service is restored – then it will simply revert [again – automatically] to the SIP Trunk services through the Internet connection.
  • VoIP relies on a call set-up protocol called ‘SIP’. SIP relies on two-way data conversation and therefore, if the carrier’s Servers cannot talk to your phone system, the servers can be configured to route the call to alternate fail-over numbers. These fail-over destinations can be mobiles, analogue lines or business answering services.

If you have made the right choices, then a loss of broadband will become a minor problem. After 21CN upgrades to the UK’s broadband delivery platforms, Internet connection has become faster and much more reliable. If you do get a broadband fail from your ‘Enterprise-level’ ISP, then your carrier’s, and your own VoIP systems, will immediately route the calls via the alternate lines and numbers. The big differences being that you won’t have missed calls, you’ve not had to call a help desk, and you don’t have to revert settings when the problems are solved.

So – while the perception may be that legacy analogue and ISDN lines are more reliable than VoIP, the flexibility that VoIP has, to automatically use preconfigured alternate routes in the case of problems, shows that its ability to deal with a connection issue is way superior to analogue and ISDN lines.

Contact Foxhall Solutions 01787 228402 – to talk about your next phone system …